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Longer than a Suburban, the Chevy Avalanche combines the comfort of a Tahoe with the load-hauling capability of a long-bed Silverado pickup. That's an impressive combination for someone who wants the utility of a full, eight-foot bed, yet needs seating for four, five or six people.
It may not be cheap, but the Chevrolet Avalanche is one slick, innovative truck. Introduced last year and revised for 2003, this is an impressive concept vehicle that made it all the way to production. The key to its versatility is the Midgate, GM's clever tailgate that separates the cabin from the pickup box. Normally, the Avalanche can carry five adults in comfort and a large amount of cargo in a covered 5-foot 3-inch indestructible bed. But the rear seats fold down like in an SUV, the Midgate folds forward like a tailgate and voila! You have an eight-foot bed capable of hauling 4x8-foot sheets of plywood. Your plywood (or drywall) stays dry inside the covered bed, out of the pouring rain. Or take the cover off the bed, remove the rear window, and you can park an ATV back there. (We've done this.)
For 2003, the Avalanche is available without the plastic body cladding. We think it looks better, cleaner, if a bit plainer this way. But don't worry. Cladding is still available. Made of a practically bullet-proof material that will protect the rocker panels from years of flying gravel, it comes in a darker color for 2003
For 2003, the Avalanche benefits from a long list of improvements to all the full-size pickups and SUVs from GM. The new electrical system architecture ha. New features improve safety, comfort, convenience, and performance. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the attention to detail seen throughout the Avalanche. The people who designed this thing are into fishing, hunting, and boating, and the execution shows, with flush-mounted cargo lights that illuminate the bed, foldaway tie-down hooks, and footholds and handholds for climbing onto the cargo cover, made of a highly rigid material can easily support your weight.
The Chevy Avalanche is as big as a Suburban, but handling and performance are surprisingly good. For 2003, braking performance and pedal feel have been improved. Fuel economy for Avalanche models equipped with optional Autotrac four-wheel drive is also improved. StabiliTrak stability control is now available on 1500 models with two-wheel drive and we recommend it.
Avalanche 1500 models ride as well as a fully loaded Suburban, maybe even better. The Avalanche feels smooth, quiet, and tight, with no squeaks or rattles. The suspension soaks up large potholes and rides comfortably on rough terrain.
Handling is excellent for a big, heavy truck, even better than in the Suburban. Both 2WD and 4WD versions of the 1500 series trucks use the same suspension and ride height, with torsion bars in front and a solid axle suspended on five links and coil springs in the rear.
The brakes, already excellent, have been improved for 2003, with shorter stops, better pedal feel, and quieter operation. GM has come a long way with brakes in the past few years.
The 5.3-liter V8 delivers plenty of punch. It's a responsive engine, rated 285 horsepower and, more important, 325 pounds-feet of torque, which launches the Avalanche quickly off the line. The broad, flat torque curve, with 90 percent of peak torque available from 1600 to 5000 rpm, is designed to provide outstanding trailer-towing and load-hauling capability. A properly equipped Avalanche 1500 is rated to tow up to 8200 pounds.
The four-speed automatic transmission (4L60-E) shifts responsively. Pressing the Tow/Haul button results in quicker, harder shifts and reduces heat by limiting the amount of hunting between gears.
Autotrac four-wheel drive lets the driver select different drive modes for different conditions: 2HI drives the rear wheels only and offers the best fuel efficiency. Auto 4WD transfers power from the rear wheels to the front wheels as needed, to optimize traction in inconsistent conditions. 4HI provides the best traction in rugged terrain. 4LO is available for when the going gets really ugly. A neutral position allows the Avalanche to be flat-towed.
2WD 1500 models now offer StabiliTrak electronic traction and stability control. The traction-control function allows controlled acceleration on slippery surfaces. The stability-enhancing function maximizes handling and braking on a variety of surfaces. An array of sensors monitor steering wheel angle, wheel speed, brake pressure, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, and yaw rate; a computer uses the data to compare the driver's intentions with the actual direction the truck is headed. The system is programmed to allow for "intervention thresholds," but above that point it steps in whenever one or more wheels is slipping, if the vehicle is slipping sideways, or if it is understeering or oversteering. Then StabiliTrak adjusts engine torque or the brake pressure to individual wheels to help steer the truck back to the path the driver intended. Our advice: If you opt for 2WD, order Stabilitrak.
Chevrolet Avalanche combines clever engineering with advanced materials science to provide a solution for people who need a full-size pickup with an eight-foot bed, but want comfortable five- or six-passenger seating. Its cargo bed is indestructible and can take a load of gravel. The interior is as luxurious as a Suburban's interior.
There's plenty of power from the 1500 model's V8 engine. Ride and handling are excellent. The heavy-duty Avalanche 2500 offers big towing capability. Attention to detail is impressive, both in design and engineering and in customer comfort and convenience. Overall, this is one of the most interesting trucks available today. Only its price gives us pause, but it seems reasonable given the capability and versatility this truck offers and the amount of engineering that went into it.